We got up and moving early from Wrightsville Beach to catch near slack tide conditions heading out the Masonboro Inlet. Interesting fun fact: Beaufort, SC is pronounced “Bewferd” and Beaufort, NC is pronounced “Bohfort”. Googling was done to figure this out, as was figuring out why North and South Carolina are separate states, and not just “Carolina” – we won’t spoil the surprise – look it up.
The ocean was amazingly calm and gentle for the 60nm cruise up to the Beaufort Inlet. Partly sunny skies, low, slow rollers, and barely registering wind. Absolutely perfect, and reminding us again of the temperamental unpredictability of Mother Nature. Lots of fishermen out on this beautiful Father’s Day – seems like a great way to spend it!
The only rough part of the day was coming into Beaufort Inlet. There was a bit of an ebb tide (current out the inlet into the ocean, causing choppy, rocking waves) and a big dredging ship in part of the channel. We were torn between being happy that they were dredging the channel which apparently has had problems with shoaling, and being nervous having to pass this behemoth in turbulent water. Inside the Beaufort Inlet is a very busy place, with commercial ships, pleasure craft, people on beaches, jet skis – you name it. It’s also very confusing as there are several channels off the main one, with seemingly overlapping day markers.
With the help of our chart plotter, binoculars and Bob423, we carefully made our way through this maze to Homer Smith’s Marina. The winds had picked up, presenting a challenge for docking as we backed in (stern in for the boaters out there), but we made it with Neil at the helm, Kath calling out directions, and Clark, the marina attendant, ready, standing by to help secure lines. After lines were secure, engine turned off, and connected to electric, we breathed a bit and realized how tired we were. It was a long day – 9.5 hours – but well worth it. Father’s Day dinner was relaxed, and we ended the evening with a Zoom call with the kids – which was fantastic.
We’ve met several boaters here at this marina, and we are always so amazed at how helpful and friendly everyone is. But come to think of it, living this life is kind of an ongoing bucket list, so it makes sense.
Today we ran some errands (there is a loaner car available at the marina that was great to have), hitting a grocery store and a seafood market. Florida is crazy expensive compared to here. After we got back to the marina, we did some boat cleaning (getting all the salt off and polishing some spots that were slyly trying to get rusty), then headed out to explore historical Beaufort. We wandered by the water for a while, stopping for some munchies and beverages, then took a walking tour of the area.
We spent a lot of time in a really old (pre-Revolutionary War) “burying ground” (aka cemetery). It was fun to be able to wander through with a guide pamphlet detailing stories of important local figures including Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers. Yellow fever wiped out an awful lot of people, especially babies and young women.
There was an area with no headstones that a few years ago was discovered to hold the remains of people who died during wars with Native Americans. The overarching conclusion is that this area was a hard place to live. Roanoke is not far from here. And for a long time it appears that people came to escape persecution, only to find themselves scraping out a living in an inhospitable land.
On an upnote, we did go see the oldest house in Beaufort, where Blackbeard had stayed (among others). Neil had recently read a book about this famous pirate, so it was fun to see this area. Kathleen has it on her list of books to consume. A lot of the homes are historical buildings, with placards next to the front door indicating the original owner and the year the home was built. The style and ease of this area belies the reality of living just off the Atlantic, but they must be doing something right as these homes have withstood whatever has been thrown at them for nearly 300 years.
Back onboard after several hours touring the town, we had coconut shrimp bought this morning, watching another amazing sunset. Tomorrow, we continue our journey north.
This morning started early (5:00 am) as we wanted to get an early start. Jeff bid us farewell from the dock at 7:45, as he was traveling back home to California. It was such a wonderful time with him, and we cannot wait to share new exploits. The day dawned partly cloudy, light breeze and 66 degrees – perfect for just about anything, especially cruising.
The trip today was a short one – 25 NM (nautical miles) up the Cape Fear River and on the ICW to a Wrightsville Beach anchorage. We somehow forgot that today is Saturday, and were abruptly reminded of how much North Carolinians love to boat. Lots of traffic, along with a dredging barge in the middle of the channel, tug boats and every type of watercraft imaginable.
Adding to this mix is a river system that curves and bends often, with areas of shoaling (where sand and dirt encroach back into the channel) just for good measure. Kathleen did a lot of the driving today, and though proudly did not run aground, was tense and tired by the time we anchored.
A shout-out to Bob423, a blogger who cruises the ICW from Virginia to Florida each year, he provides his boat track data for upload into your navigation application to aid in finding deep water around the many shoals and obstructions in the ICW.
Neil had to perform some boating maneuvers when two tug boats, with a few hundred yards of piping between them appeared to be blocking the exit from Shinn Creek at the Masonboro Inlet. He was able to back up, swing around the convoy, holding the boat in a very small area of “deep-enough” water. Kathleen in the cockpit was watching kids playing in the water seemingly very close by. We both breathed a sigh of relief when we were able to maneuver around and make way up to the anchorage.
Wrightsville Beach is very pretty, and obviously a place to play. The anchorage is big and relatively protected; we settled in to enjoy the rest of the day.
It was only noon, so that was fantastic. After securing the boat and shutting down the engine and electronics, we sunbathed on the upper deck (top of the pilothouse) for a bit, and then went swimming off the swim platform at the back of the boat.
We even tried out our new swim ladder, confirming that it can be deployed from the water and does not result in a concussion. As an added bonus, it is even easier to use than the original ladder on the opposite side of the swim platform.
Sitting here now, writing this blog, watching the late afternoon sun dapple the water like immeasurable diamonds, with billowing clouds rolling in which just might portend an evening thunderstorm. Tomorrow we continue our journey north; for now, we’re enjoying this Salt Life. And we completely understand why JT wrote a song about coming here in his mind.
After a couple of weeks of provisioning, repairing, double checking and even hand waxing the topsides (who needs a gym!), we drove to Orlando Airport to pick up our broker-turned-good friend, Jeff Merrill, to travel with us on the first leg of our journey. We ventured out to meet some friends for a last evening at the “Chill and Grill” which was a great way to salute the first seven months of our boat life.
We waved off our new friends, Joe and Christine, in their Nordhavn 46 Legacy on Sunday. The people we have met have been wonderful, and we always are so grateful for the generosity and friendliness of boat folks. Jeff is a case in point. We met him about 4 years ago when we first began to seriously explore finding a boat. He has navigated us through this new world, including helping us purchase Granuaile. Somewhere along the way we went from clients and broker to friends. Part of his buyer-broker program is an offer to provide onboard training post-purchase, and we jumped at the chance. We definitely felt much more comfortable having Jeff, with his lifetime of boating experience, with us for our first overnight offshore cruise.
After researching multiple weather forecasting sources, we felt relatively confident that we had picked a good window for running north on the open ocean, for a grand total of 442 NM over the course of 2 days and 2 nights, Leaving around 10:00 am on June 15, and arriving in the afternoon on June 17. Neil set up our Garmin InReach satellite device for communicating with the kids and Neil’s brother Dave so our “land contacts” would be able to monitor our progress real time on a map and be able to contact via messaging. Here is a link to map displaying our cruising tracks: https://share.garmin.com/mvgranuaile. It is updated as we continue our travels. Select the “View Recent Tracks” button to see all of our cruising tracks to date. We also added a new section to the blog, “Location Map”, where you can find the above link.
Departure was easy, with our dockmate, Susan, helping with the lines and all systems working. We cruised down to Ft. Pierce and out into the ocean around 12:30.
We got out into the ocean, set our course, and began heading north, with John Denver’s Song, “Calypso” playing as an earworm in Kathleen’s brain.
Shortly into our cruise, it became apparent the sea conditions were rougher than forecasted. Waves were bigger with shorter periods, creating a ride similar to an amusement park roller coaster. Kathleen did ominously note that we did not see any dolphins on our way out yet.
Jeff has extensive offshore cruising experience and knowledge that he willingly shared with us which made us much more comfortable with undertaking an overnight passage. We worked together to set a watch schedule while getting our “sea legs” in rolling, often crashing, seas. There were many flying fish sightings throughout the day, which really seemed to be impossible – the fish literally flap their fins above the water and fly over the top of it for many yards at a time. They looked like something right out of Harry Potter.
Being out of sight of land again was less intimidating than the first time. However, we have renewed respect for those intrepid early explorers who left their homes and shores with no idea what they were sailing into, with only a compass for their guide. Polynesians didn’t even have that and they successfully navigated the South Pacific waters using the night sky as their map and an intuitive sense of the movement and streams of the oceans to move between islands. We’re really glad that we have redundant electronics (along with traditional compass and charts) to venture out into the ocean, over 100 miles from land.
The rolling, crashing seas were definitely “exciting” and we are very thankful for the person who invented scopolamine patches (frankly, he or she should be canonized…) as this miracle little patch allowed us to function during unsettling water without tossing our cookies, which goes a long way in creating a successful voyage. Neil was the hero for the day, as he was able to crawl into the lazarette and purge air from a raw water pump that caused the AC to stop working – not good in rolling seas where you cannot open doors and hatches to let cross breezes in. Then Neil and Jeff noticed that the tie down for the davit (the crane that lifts the dinghy on and off the boat) had loosened and the arm was not secure. Jeff turned the boat around so that the ride would be smoother while Neil donned his life jacket and ventured out to the upper deck to secure the arm to a railing, with a towel for a buffer. Jeff called out instructions on how to tie a trucker’s knot. In no time (that may have felt a little longer to Neil), the davit was made fast and we turned back onto our course.
Watching the ocean move around, under, and at times, over our boat creates such wonder. The ocean is indeed a living entity, not just for the denizens who live in its vast depths. There is a power, movement, force that is daunting in its strength. So many poets, songwriters and singers have tried to capture this essence. This cruise was an amazing chance to experience this mystery.
As the sun started to set on the first evening, nervous energy was palpable for both of us. Kathleen had the 9-midnight watch. It was surprising how subtly darkness falls on the water. The horizon is unbroken as the sun sinks in the west, but it is amazing how long light lingers – it didn’t get truly dark until about 10:00, and by that time, Kath was comfortable with steering by radar and autopilot.
It is quiet and calm during the night, punctuated by moments of extreme alertness when the radar picks up another ship moving towards your general direction. You strain to catch a glimpse of the white steaming light which is usually the first sighting of a distant vessel, and then tracking its course in conjunction with your own, calculating your course (with the help of AIS, GPS and radar) to avoid coming near each other. It’s funny that while we’re cruising on this huge expanse of water two boats can even inadvertently come close to each other is a thing – and it happens a lot. Much music was listened to, and kindle books read while on night watch.
With the wind and waves on our bow either directly or near so, causing the rough seas and very slow forward progress, we determined that our original plan to arrive at Cape Fear between noon and 3:00 on Wednesday was not going to happen. We slowed further and committed to another night on the ocean, with plans to enter the inlet at (or near) slack tide, 6:00ish am on Thursday morning.
We had to do a bit of creative navigating to draw out our trip as we arrived a bit sooner than we thought we would, but we entered the Cape Fear inlet in less rough waters, and docked at our new marina, South Harbour Village Marina in Southport, NC at 8:00 am. We were on a facing dock between two boats.
Once secured, Jeff volunteered to wash off the accumulated pounds of salt from the boat, Neil went up to sign in at the marina, and Kathleen made veggie cheese omelets for the weary crew. While washing the boat, Jeff discovered that we had “landed” our first fish – one of the flying fish didn’t make it over our upper deck and unfortunately expired sometime during our journey. And no, we did not cook it up – it was returned to the sea with a ceremonious fling. Fair winds and following seas, Mr. Fish.
After well-deserved (and needed) showers, Kathleen and Neil ventured into Southport to explore, while Jeff tried to nab some sleep and catch up on work, emails and phone calls. Neil and Kathleen had more fun. Southport is a beautiful colonial town, picturesque and the site of many movies. We enjoyed some shellfish and sunshine, exploring the town for a few hours.
Dinner that evening was chicken enchiladas on board, rounds of Mind Blocks (a game Jeff invented) and early end to waxing philosophical, as we all needed a good night’s sleep. Oh, and Jeff pointed out a family of dolphins that were casually fishing in the river near us. NOW Kathleen knew all would be well.
Friday dawned beautiful and calm.
On the way up to the marina office, Neil encountered some of the local wildlife, calling Kathleen to come check it out. Yup, that is a six foot alligator swimming around in the marina. Apparently, dinosaurs are found all over the South. This “little guy” hung out for a bit, but got irritated with a golden retriever who disrupted the early morning quiet with excited barking, and with a few powerful swishes of his tail, slipped under the water and disappeared. Needless to say, we did not swim or paddle board here.
The rest of the day passed quietly and seamlessly. We debriefed with Jeff on his observations and suggestions for making cruising easier, whether it be added amenities to the pilothouse (i.e. – drink holders) to improvements on engine room check logging forms. We are sooo grateful for his easy manner with good ideas. His calm demeanor and ability to turn any situation into a fun adventure made this cruise for us. We cannot wait for another trip with him, and hopefully, his wife, Pam. Oh, and he introduced us to the music group, The Cordovas, which is awesome.
Update 9/29/2020: Jeff Merrill (JMYS – Trawler Specialists) produced a video of our offshore adventure/training. Please view at the following YouTube link:
It has been quite a while since we last posted… We know. We, like the rest of the world, have been adjusting to “a new normal” with Covid-19 in our surroundings. Luckily, so far, we have been very healthy and have not been stricken with this virus – nor has anyone in our marina. Unfortunately, this led to a rather dry spell for our cruising blog. We were incredibly lucky to have our daughter Meghan and her friend (and basically one of our family) Jamie visit before things got out of hand, enjoying the beach before it closed, and cruising a bit. It was definitely fantastic to be able to see them.
During our two month+ sheltering in place, we actually accomplished quite a lot. Neil did extensive work learning the many systems on our floating home, and ensuring all is ready for our travel north to the Chesapeake Bay region in mid-June. Kathleen has been doing lots of “self-improvement” tasks like learning Spanish, writing, doing yoga, and practicing guitar. It’s probably safe to say that Kathleen was having more fun.
We also both enjoyed social distancing using our paddle boards. The beautiful quiet of the ICW was enhanced by greatly reduced boat traffic. It was amazing to be out on the Indian River with only kayaks, sculls, canoes, and paddle boards around. We ventured to nearby islands, and saw so much wildlife. Our biggest thrill (and TBH, a bit of a scare) was seeing a juvenile hammerhead shark in the shallow waters near the shore of the river. The Indian River is brackish water (both salt and freshwater). We had never seen, or truly considered that there might be sharks in these waters. Apparently, it’s really common. The shark was 2-3 feet long, and definitely very young – and scared of us. He darted between us trying to get away from these very long floating boards with fins in the water. We were excited to get to see him in the wild – and have absolutely no need to encounter his mother or father…
Pink flamingos are real! We saw a flock gathering on the shore during one of our outings on the boards. They are gorgeous, and quite honestly, seem very aware of that fact. Heck, who wouldn’t be if you could rock varying shades of pink plumage?
In March, before Meghan and Jamie got here, we decided to take the boat out for a day to test some systems that Neil had been working on before the girls got here. Although we were diligent in checking the weather, we encountered very rough seas once we exited the Ft. Pierce inlet. We spent a few hours valiantly trying to navigate confused tossed seas, which only succeeded in causing minor seasickness for both of us. Lesson learned: Be sure to take some type of medication before going out into the ocean for the first day of any voyage. We made it back to the marina, only slightly worse for the wear.
Several days later, after they arrived, we went out overnight with Meghan and Jamie back to the Melbourne anchorage. We had a lot of fun, with the dolphins putting on quite a show for us!
We didn’t get to take Granuaile out again until the end of April. Cabin fever is a real thing, and being able to be on the water, away from people, anchoring out, was the needed solution. We cruised down the ICW to Ft. Pierce, anchoring for two nights just south of the inlet. This is a lovely haven where many boaters choose to wait for favorable weather for further travel, North or South. We anchored without too much trouble, and enjoyed beautiful weather with light breezes to chase the heat and humidity away
We were able to launch the tender (it had been out of commission for a bit as Neil worked out some kinks with both the battery and the davit) and explored the different marinas and waters. We saw really cool fish activity in the evening near our anchorage. There were large schools of fish that were thrashing around near the surface of the water, appearing to be being pursued by something in the water that seemed to be corralling them in large circles. We finally saw one of the predator fish jump out of the water – looked like a tuna (later learned most likely a crevalle jack) working with his buddies to get dinner. After these fish had satisfied their hunger, the dolphins came in leisurely to hunt, with pelicans flying above them, scoping out possible food. In the fish world of the ocean, it is truly eat or be eaten – all the time.
After two days, we raised anchor and meandered back up the ICW to our marina, getting ever-more experience communicating with bridge tenders and other boaters, as well as cruising experience. The biggest fubar of the trip was when Kathleen (accidentally) turned on the black water holding tank discharge pump, thinking she had switched on the engine room fan – and didn’t notice until damage was done. Thankfully, nothing burst (as the seacock was closed, and the “pumped material” did not burst out the hoses connected to the holding tank…), but ominously, there was work to be done on the least favorite, but very essential part of the boat…
We went back out a week later, first anticipating going out on May 4th, but a pre-departure engine check showed low transmission oil. As we were really in no hurry, we decided to delay by a day, and add oil, ensuring that all was well with our systems. We did get out the next morning, bright and early, and cruised back to Ft. Pierce.
After clearing the bascule (draw) bridge, we navigated through the busy inlet out into the beautiful Atlantic. It was a gorgeous day, with 2-3 foot seas and very low winds. We went out twenty miles (just to see what it was like to be out of sight of land!), and tested many systems.
Unfortunately, we did confirm that the black water pump needed some work, so that went to the top of the to-do list when we got back. We ran the generator, the wing engine (our get-home engine should our trusty Lugger main engine ever malfunction), and ran the main at wide open throttle, we used the water maker and generally had a most excellent day. When we were coming back into Ft. Pierce, the wind picked up and there was a lot of boat traffic, so more experience gained! We cruised back to the anchorage we had used the previous week, noticing a few more boats anchored. The stiffer wind made anchoring a little more “interesting” trying to ensure we were not too close to neighboring boats, we were successful on the second try. It was a great day, and we had a fun evening with lime-honey tacos to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!
Although it was a windy night, our anchor held fast and we slept easily. After a relaxed morning, we raised anchor and cruised back up the ICW towards home. We had not seen dolphins yet, and for Kathleen, they are a good omen of safe travels – she was very happy to see several on the ride home, with three leading us into our marina.
Once back, we noticed how quiet our marina has become over the past 6 weeks or so. Many people have traveled, either by boat, plane or car, back to their residences. It feels much more isolated now, but we see manatees and dolphins in the marina regularly, and our wi-fi is not nearly as spotty – so silver lining.
After securing the necessary parts, Neil went to work on the black water pump, with Kathleen as his intrepid (?) assistant. Even with face masks on, it was not a job for the faint of heart. Neil maneuvered himself into a very small cabinet, needing to remove two rubber “joker” or “duckbill” valves, while trying to contain materials that we had been unable to pump out – good times. Suffice to say that bleach, rubbing alcohol, soap, gloves, and hot water were involved when we were done. Hopefully, Kathleen never makes that same mistake again.
Now we are busy planning for our venture north before hurricane season begins. We plan to depart mid-June, cruising offshore for the first two nights up to the Cape Fear or Beaufort Inlets in North Carolina, then continue on the ICW to the Chesapeake. We’re excited for this next leg; we will be challenging ourselves with new adventures and visiting places we’ve never been – which has been the whole point of this life, anyway.
We hope that you and yours are all well and safe. So many plans had to be cancelled and/or postponed. We had much different ideas for how we were going to spend April and May – but we are grateful to be here, with each other, “living the dream”.
It has been surprisingly difficult to schedule people to visit us. Between guests having jobs and school obligations, weather whims that we cannot control, and the never-ending list of things to be attended to and fixed on the boat, we have had quite a challenge. However, as we settle into this life and weather turns from Winter to Spring (even here in Florida, for Winter can often mean strong winds, rain, and just difficult boating conditions), we are excited to welcome friends and family.
Our first official guests were our daughter, Katie, and her two life-long buddies, Lindsay Tourault and Katie Kemp. Our families are all close; the girls met in middle school and have stayed BFF’s for the last decade and more. Our Katie was the strong impetus behind this first trip, staking out a week in February back when we bought the boat in November. Both Katies are finishing up their senior years in college, and Lindsay works full time. Katie D’s “Spring Break” (Reading Week in Canada) was February 17-21. She and the girls met up in Denver and flew the red eye to Orlando to arrive on Saturday, February 15th.
After collecting them from the airport we brought them to our Granuaile.The girls were so excited and complimentary – it reminded us how special this life is, and their child-like glee was infectious. After a quick tour, they took a spin on the paddle boards (with our resident manatee popping up to welcome them).
Then it was swimsuits and sun up on the deck, with the weather a balmy 80°. They spent that first afternoon getting caught up with each other. For us, it was magical to have young people on board, ready for adventure.
Later that afternoon, we took the girls to the South Beach Park in Vero. The ocean was rough, but we all had fun walking the beach in the early evening. Katie Kemp was the first to discover a strange-looking sea creature on the beach – not very big (about 3 inches), looked like a blue-purple inflated plastic bag.
Luckily, Katie has some strong knowledge, and stopped us from getting close – actually drawing a circle around it on the sand, with a line through the circle – “Do not cross”. It was some sort of jellyfish – and we saw three more on our walk. As we exited the beach, Katie K mused that it looked like a Portuguese Man O’ War – the rest of us had no idea. After a quick Google search, Katie was proven correct and we felt lucky that we hadn’t accidentally tripped over any of the ones on the beach. We then went to Fishack, a funky restaurant with Rum Buckets and “The best margaritas in Vero!” The food was good too.
The next morning, after a breakfast of pancakes and bacon, we prepped to head out for an overnight anchoring not too far away. We got underway with some wind, but unfortunately, the wind continued to increase. We tried to anchor at Pine Island, only 2 miles away, but was too shallow for our 5’ 8” draft. We continued up the ICW to attempt anchoring at Wabasso Bridge, a location we had wanted to try. Unfortunately, the winds were strong and the anchorage tight, we could not set the anchor well. So we headed back. The girls were happy – a full day out on the decks with lots of sun and “very nice boaters who always wave at us.” Interestingly, this was the first time we had not seen dolphins while out cruising – and it was our least successful attempt at boating! After an uneventful return to our slip, Neil took the girls to the beach again, where they played in rough waters and avoided the Man O Wars…
The next morning proved much nicer wind-wise. We got an earlier start and cruised out to Melbourne. The dolphins were out early and often with us – again, a very good omen. The girls were really excited to see them, as well as several manatees.
The waters were calm, and much less busy. We easily anchored at Melbourne, which was the first place we had gone on our own after completing our training.
We put the paddle boards in the water and played. Swimming, boarding, laughter and music, while pelicans and ospreys fished and soared around us. Oh, and the dolphins came in, seemingly curious about our generator exhaust gurgling in the water, and probably the girls on the paddle boards!
Our only hiccup was a dead battery in the dinghy and an oil leak in the davit. It didn’t dampen the fun, however. We grilled burgers, watching the dolphins play very nearby until it was dark. We stayed up playing hearts and telling embarrassing stories. It was wonderful.
On Tuesday morning, we got up and moving early.
Katie K and Lindsay had a flight out of Orlando that evening. The trip back was again, fantastic. Perfect weather, with our dolphin guides, who got really excited when we ran the boat at wide open throttle creating a large wake. Leaping, spinning, and racing next to the boat, having a blast putting on a show for us.
After returning to Vero, the girls packed up and got ready to head back to real winter.
We left early for the airport, as they wanted to have another batch of seafood. Neil found “Squid Lips” in Sebastian – a perfect “on the water” laid back restaurant with a large drink menu. The girls treated us to dinner – completely unexpected, but very generous – just like them! Dropping them at Orlando airport was hard – these two are family for us. We will see them again in two months for graduations, but it’s never long enough spending time with them.
We had our Katie with us for a few more days, which was exceptional. She was a real trooper, as the weather went south again. On Wednesday, she worked with us getting the boat cleaned (didn’t even complain, just jumped in to help). She is now an expert boat deck swabber. Neil and Katie went out for an early evening SUP ride, then we indulged going out to dinner to teach Katie the magnificence of oysters on the half shell – her first time tasting them, and she is now a new convert.
Thursday was another day of wind, this time along with rain. There were errands to be run and grocery shopping to accomplish – always just a blast. But being able to spend time with Kate made the day special. After another shrimp-versioned dinner, we relaxed and enjoyed the evening.
Friday was Katie’s last day with us. After packing and making sure nothing was left behind, we headed out to the airport, stopping along the way for some lunch near Melbourne. Seeing her off at the airport was so hard, with her traveling back to Vancouver after a week that went by way too quickly. We’ll see her for her graduation in May, but we already miss her.
Having the girls visit reinforced for us why we’ve chosen this life, and how lucky we are to be able to pursue it. It’s easy to get used to the uniqueness of living on a boat – the calm, the water, the breeze, the sun, and to lose the specialness in the minutiae of daily life. Visitors bring that back to us, allowing us to see it through their eyes and renew it in our own. For this and so much more, we are grateful and we can’t wait to welcome our next batch of visitors in a few short weeks!
After hanging out at Old Port Cove marina in Palm Beach Gardens for several more days, we finally got the important repairs completed and decided to head back to our marina on February 4th. Palm Beach is lovely, but we were anxious to get back to our home base.
After checking the weather and planning the route, we decided to do a one day run “on the outside” – in the open Atlantic, skirting the Gulf Stream up the coast. Winds were with us (Southeast) and the current runs north, we estimated we could make the trip in less than 10 hours.
We got up early, and left before 7:00, just after sunrise. The journey to Lake Worth inlet was quiet and beautiful.
Exiting the inlet was “exciting” as Kathleen “missed” the AIS target for a freighter being towed into the inlet by a tug boat (It seems impossible to miss these behemoths, but this is the second time at this inlet that somehow a large freighter was missed – need to get better at this!). Neil handled our boat well, and the pilot boat captain gave us the go ahead to cruise out as the freighter was coming in. Once out on the open water, the water was smooth – very light winds, very little waves.
We cruised up the coast, traveling between 8-10 knots. Dolphins came to swim with us, and we saw tarpons, large, slim fish about three feet long, jumping and spinning in the waters. There were lots of folks out fishing, as the day was beautiful. Other than a leaking watermaker raw water strainer in the engine room (another repair project opportunity for Neil) the trip was uneventful.
We came in through the Ft. Pierce inlet, navigating bridge opening requests and passes with increasing comfort. We cruised our way up the ICW to our home marina, arriving an hour ahead of time. Slip neighbors came out to greet us and help us tie up. Although we still had some items to attend to for the boat (i.e. an elusive new swim ladder for one), it was very good to be back.
After our training adventure and solo outing, we went to Vancouver, Canada to spend the holidays with family. It was wonderful and fun. And wet. Very wet. Like, “there for 26 days, it rained for 25 of them” kind of wet. But we had beautiful hikes, too much food, lots of laughs and philosophizing and overall had a magical time.
We returned to Vero Beach on January 11th, and started preparing for our planned haul out for some annual maintenance and repairs that are best completed on dry land. Easy Peasy…
We left our marina on a beautiful January 19th morning, electing to travel down the ICW rather than the open ocean as the wind was not in our favor, and would have made for an “adventurous” ride.
We charted a path to dock at Sailfish Marina in Manatee Pocket, just south of the St. Lucie inlet. It was a pretty cruise, with lots of radio practice (it is amazing how tongue tied you can get when trying to just ask a bridge tender for an opening…). We had dolphin pals for a large part of the journey – they always seem to be harbingers of good luck. They also seem to enjoy watching us fumbling along on their highway. They swim with us, crossing the bow back and forth, and pop up to smile and check in, while surfing our wake. Then, they show their true speed and scoot off as if we were standing still. So cool to see.
There was A LOT of traffic on the ICW. Weather had been rather rainy for the past month or so, and it was also Martin Luther King Jr. weekend – so, sunshine, warmth, water and a long weekend guaranteed Floridians and their guests were coming out to play. We came to understand courteous and discourteous behavior (i.e. it’s really not polite for a 60 foot sport fisher to go by a 30 foot sailboat while traveling at a speed that puts out a wake that could nearly swamp said sailboat). Salty language on channel 16…
We had made a reservation at Sailfish Marina, a very busy, very fun place. Unfortunately, the manager of the dock did not get the information that we were coming. No problem; he pointed to a slip we could use for the evening. Neil got to experience spontaneous aerobic training for this one. He managed a 270 degree turn in a very tight space with a very large boat, then backed it into the slip. Beautifully done, no scrapes, awesome docking. This was our first time tying up to a fixed dock with pilings. “What’s the big deal?” you may ask. Well, we use fenders – big, inflated bumpers to protect the side of the boat from the dock. However, when the pilings stick out from the dock, it’s necessary to set the fenders horizontally and possibly set up fender boards.. We had theoretically heard about this during various classes and training. Our knowledge base shot up meteorically when we had to execute it nearly immediately after tying up to prevent any boat dings.
Once we were secured, we noticed it was shaping up to be a beautiful sunset. We whipped up some gin and tonics, set the deck chairs on the upper deck, and watched the evening traffic play out in front of us.
We did notice that there is a floating pontoon boat/tiki bar that is available for rent. Something to keep in mind as we have college-aged kiddos and friends coming to visit over the next few months.
After an easy evening, we arose the next morning, prepped the boat for departure, and got underway about 10:00 am. We had another pretty day of cruising with much less traffic for some reason. The ICW is really stunning – whether passing “neighborhoods” of mansions with boats out front, or cruising through quiet waters with mangroves growing down to the water’s edge with no one but birds (and other crawly stuff) watching you.
Kathleen got more experience requesting bridge openings, and Neil got more experience navigating through bridge spaces with on-coming traffic. We cruised into an anchorage at the north end of Lake Fort Worth just off the Old Port Cove Marina. We set the anchor, and settled in around 4:00.
The winds were high, however, that night, and we got to experience boat swings of 100 degrees. Kathleen pretty much slept through it; Neil, being more attentive, got up often to walk around and be sure our anchor did not drag. It did not.
On the morning of the 21st, we raised anchor, and made our way back up the ICW about two miles to Seminole Marine for the haul out.
Neil earned his captain stripes on this one. The wind was brisk, and pushing from the north as we headed into it. We needed to steer into a travel lift bay directly to the west. Boating is basically like continuously steering on ice; it’s hard to calculate angles of approach and speed even without the wind “adding fun”. The first approach was too shallow, and we were quickly being pushed into docked boats. Neil got us out of a tight situation, backed off, and then came into the slip, leaning Granuaile against a wooden piling to pivot around and enter the bay. It was awe inspiring watching Granuaile be lifted out of the water by a giant rolling lift and moved to our assigned spot in the yard. We were officially “on the hard”.
The work was either annual maintenance, items that had come up during survey, or things that we discovered needing repair during our previous weeks owning the boat. Everything from power washing, prepping and painting the bottom of the boat, waxing the hull, and fixing a stuck pilot house door, to dropping the keel cooler, cleaning, boiling, and testing it, to deck drain hoses and seacocks that needed love, replace stabilizer seals and replace the main shaft cutlass bearing.
We had anticipated four days, seven at the most. We got back into the water yesterday, the 30th, and are still at the dock in Old Port Cove Marina having some work finished up.. This has been a fantastic experience in “equanimity” – one of the recent Calm meditation app lessons practiced by Kathleen. We may or may not be back to our Vero Beach slip by Super Bowl Sunday, but as we’ve said quite often, there are worse places to be waylaid.
Palm Beach and its environs are beautiful. We went to a turtle rescue facility, a manatee research and information site (right next to a power plant – they like the warm water), toured a lighthouse and museum, and learned so much about our new home here. We spent three hours soaking in the sun on Jupiter Beach, finally getting to play in the Atlantic for the first time since we arrived here in November.
We went to lots of great fish restaurants and a funky tiki bar, but our very best night here was being able to see friends, Brenda and Mark Taipale, who we hadn’t seen for 23 years. The years fell away, and the evening passed too quickly with belly laughs, memories, and getting caught up. It was a most wonderful unexpected surprise.
While sitting here typing this entry, we are still awaiting a new swim ladder. Our wind speed and angle sensor is officially dead, so a new one is ordered. We’ve met so many great people – marine specialists, other boat owners, folks just walking the docks checking out the boats. Being in AirBnb’s and hotels left us antsy to get back to our home, and the calmness that comes from this life. Waking up this morning to a smooth, quiet bay, watching the sun come up and enjoying warm coffee together on the upper deck was perfect – as all homecomings should be.
We decided to take a short trip up the ICW to visit some place new, and to practice our newly developed skills. Melbourne is 26 miles up the ICW (which at our boat speed is about 3.5 hours). We charted our course, researched anchorages, checked and recheck weather. On the morning of December 5th, we cast off for our first solo voyage. With Neil at the helm, and Kathleen working the lines and calling out directions, we moved slowly and peacefully out of our slip in the early morning light. Two dolphins, a mother and her baby, swam behind us to wave us off.
That ripple in the water is the dolphins – too fast for me!
We had an easy and fun cruise up the ICW – the weather helped – no wind, no current, just a nice day on the water. We anchored, successfully avoiding the ever-present crab pots and also avoiding running aground (at one point, had 0.5 feet beneath the keel – fun times…). It was beautiful. It was quiet. And we had done it.
We relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Kathleen played guitar in the cockpit, and looked up at one point to see an audience of five pelicans – they weren’t feeding, they were just floating and listening. We guess they are James Taylor fans from way back….
Yet another spectacular sunset and evening. The next morning, we launched the dinghy and went exploring. There is a city dock here, and we watched some folks launching their boats from trailers – they do it so well, and make it look easy. Then we went down Crane Creek to another marina, with lots of boats and Ichabod’s Spot café (get it? Crane Creek…) – anyway, we drove the dinghy at a very leisurely pace, going down a river for a bit. On the way back out, we saw a manatee up close – nose in the air, body, and tail flip – it was exceptional to view one of these shy, peaceful creatures so close. We ran around in the dinghy to another anchorage, then tied up to the boat, relaxing for the afternoon. We went out for an evening cruise, having so much fun we almost ran out of sunlight to secure the dinghy back on the deck. But we did. Feeling very accomplished!
The next day, we left around 10:00 am, needing time to clean off a very muddy and grassy anchor, and headed back. On the way, 4 dolphins, including a baby, rode with us. These playful, fun creatures always amaze and thrill us. Not sure we’ll ever get used to them – we hope we never do. We pulled into our marina around 2:30, and we got the boat docked in style. Each time is a little less frenetic. It may never be without “heightened awareness” and really never should be. But we’re feeling good that we can use our boat. Here’s to many more adventures and amazing journeys.
Before we bought Granuaile (previously Tivoli), Neil researched training captains, and decided to hire Bernie Francis, a training captain in Florida with 30 years boating experience. It turned out that Bernie had worked with Clayton and Deanna, the owners of Tivoli, and had captained this boat before. We all agreed that three weeks on the water would be a good training session. We completed another online seamanship course before leaving Colorado, moved and completed the boat transaction, got settled on board and then down to Palm Beach Gardens to meet and pick up Bernie. Once on board, we all went to work outfitting Granuaile. Three days and multiple trips to stores here in Vero, we were ready to begin. On November 14th, we got up at 5:00 am, to get ready for an anticipated 7:00ish cast off. We began to learn about pre-departure check lists, turning things on in the correct order, securing the boat for our trip, and finally firing up the main engine. Using headsets for the first time (which, we’ve been told, save voices and marriages), proved not only calming, but fun. With Bernie at the helm, we slowly moved out of our slip, into the fairway of the marina, and out into the Intracoastal Waterway. As the weather was overcast with some wind, we all decided to navigate the ICW down to North Palm Beach (our next stop) instead of venturing out into open water.
The first things we noticed were not encouraging – our depth sounder and our anemometer were not working. As long as we stayed in the channel of the ICW, we’d be fine (later we learned how tricky that could be, but in this case, ignorance was bliss). We also were in the early stages of understanding the critical importance of wind – direction and speed. Luckily for us, it was not crazy on this day. We had many “learning opportunities” on this first day. We learned about bridges – stationary ones that are tall enough to cruise under (we like these), and lower bridges, that must be opened for boat traffic. Most open on a set schedule, and boaters radio the bridge operator to request an opening. Learning to use the radio, with the correct hailing and radio jargon took some practice. Also, not planning arrival times correctly can leave you on one side of a bridge, with time to kill, with winds and currents pushing your boat around, with other boats doing the same thing. Fun times. At the end, it was fun. We saw astoundingly beautiful homes, dolphins, pelicans and many, many kinds of boats. We cruised into Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach in the late afternoon. We had the welcome sight of dockhands waiting to help us – which we needed, given the wind, our inexperience and our exhaustion.
The next five days were more days of outfitting the boat and minor repairs (never ending on a boat…). We worked with a designer to create and install the Granuaile and pirate swords design to change the name of the boat.
We did discover that the depth sounder was fine (who knew it REALLY matters what order you turn on the electronics and wait for them to come online before moving on??? Lesson learned). Gratefully, there are many apps and our chart plotter to figure out tide, current and wind. Not so gratefully, there is not one guaranteed predictor – we literally had times when three sites predicted wind and speed from different directions and different speeds – again, fun times. We got to see Deanna and Clayton on this trip as they moved to Palm Beach Gardens. It is wonderful that we are becoming good friends – another blessing from starting this life. The BEST was that Kathleen’s brother, Joe, was in Florida on business, not too far away, and drove up to spend an afternoon with us. It was originally planned as lunch, but given we hadn’t see Joe for a few years, and the Nageottes (Kathleen’s family) are rather well known for having quite the gift of the gab, we had lunch, visited, and before we knew it, the dinner crowd was coming in. It was a wet rainy day, and the perfect way to spend it. While we were at Old Port Cove, Bernie had us practice docking maneuvers. We both drove and navigated (directing the pilot from the stern using the communication headsets), and felt slightly better about docking this boat which seems soooo much larger when trying to dock it. From November 19th through November 30th, we moved – a lot. Leaving Old Port Cove, we had a very short cruise planned, just one hour of actual boating time. The main reason – we had contacted a fuel supplier to take on diesel. Filling cars for the last nearly-40 years has nothing on this boat. Complaints of five minutes waiting – HAH! This boat holds over 1300 gallons of diesel fuel. We took on about 535 on this particular fuel up. It took nearly an hour. And no small chunk of change. Apparently, this does not have to be done often …
After anchoring for the first time in Palm Beach Gardens for the night (something that seemed so simple on paper….), we got up early the next morning to cruise to Biscayne Bay, just outside of Miami. We were on the open ocean, and it was fun.
Dolphins love to surf our bow waves (and Kathleen likes to believe they are super friendly and want to come by to check us out, play and show off their babies…). Kathleen was at the helm navigating the channel through Miami – another “learning experience” for her, as well and something she has come to dub “unplanned aerobic exercise” because of the raised heart rate and prolific “glowing” that goes along with rapid, tense situations. There is an art to “staying on your side of the channel” without actually leaving the channel. The whole experienced brought back memories of kids learning to drive, and how we called their need to hug the right side white line “white line fever” – Kathleen has renewed sympathy for those teens…
The anchorage is MAGNIFICENT. Safe, calm, beautiful view of Miami, and, apparently, the glass house from Scarface.
We wanted to swim, but our wise captain let us know that the current was too strong that day. Watching the sun set, the moon, Venus and Jupiter all shining brightly – wonderful way to relax. The next morning, November 21st, we were up early to start cruising with the sunrise. We had a long day of boating ahead. First, however, we cruised through the very unique area of Stiltsville. Literally, homes, in the water, built on pilings. It is part of Biscayne National Park boundaries now, and although no further structures can be built, the ones that currently exist are under the care of the National Park Service and “caretakers” (former owners of the homes). It’s a wonderful, quirky part of Florida’s history
Upon exiting the inlet, we were once again in open water, basking in an unusually long stretch of glorious weather. We cruised down to the Channel Five inlet, a safe anchorage about 70 nm away. This is a picturesque spot. The winds and current were busy that night, making for an “active” sleep time – not so different from having a toddler climb into bed with you and needing to “make room” all night.
On the 22nd, we cruised 23 nm to Marathon, a pretty, funky marina and town. We had hoped to practice picking up a mooring ball for our stop that night, but “the Season” had already begun in Florida, and there were no balls for a boat our size. We anchored for a break, and launched the dinghy (first time for Neil and Kathleen!). The davit definitely makes moving the dinghy from “the second floor” to the water a simple task, and before very long, we were out exploring the marina anchorage, checking out other boats and our own. Dinghies are FUN. It was a bit surreal to be trying to remember to reapply sunscreen and enjoying being sun kissed while friends and family from Colorado to Ohio to DC were dealing with snow storms, cold, and seasonable weather. This is one time we were more than willing to learn to acclimate to a different situation! We re-loaded the dinghy, had lunch, and then cruised out to just outside the marina, on the south side of the bridge for a beautiful evening.
November 23rd we cruised for about 40 miles to Stock Island Marina in Key West. The marina is well-run, and pretty, with free shuttles into town and back, of which we took advantage! Bernie was a great tour guide for a few hours, introducing us to Pepe’s, the oldest continuously-open restaurant on Key West. Pepe’s has amazing oysters, at incredible prices, great drinks and food – very laid back and a true gem.
Bernie went back to the boat, and we explored. Duval street is crazy (kinda like Bourbon Street), with an abundance of establishments to quench your thirst, restaurants and shops – some much quirkier than others. We were in Key West for two days, and loved it. On the second day, we walked to the “southernmost point of land in the continental United States”.
We had ice cold beers at the beach bar, and then walked back into town, taking side streets. We went back to Pepe’s (because, why not?) and were pleasantly surprised that their happy hour included half priced oysters – we were in heaven. Bernie gave us a local tip – the best Key Lime Pie was at the Publix grocery store bakery – and it was only $8.00. He was right. We have wanted to visit Key West for a very long time, and it did not disappoint. We will be back. November 25th signaled the beginning of our return to our home port. We cruised 60+ nm back to Channel Five, skipping Marathon. We stayed at the same anchorage, and besides dodging the ever-present and annoying crab pots, it was a beautiful cruise in beautiful weather. Underway, we created routes on our navigation software (which is just grins and giggles when the boat is rocking and you’re trying to drop waypoints accurately to have a clear path for the next day).
The sunset, again, was so perfect and almost unreal… calm seas, open space, peaceful night.
On the 26th, we cruised 70 nm back to Biscayne Bay. Neil piloted us through Stiltsville again. It was wonderful to see it from a different angle and at a different time of day. Marine traffic was picking up because of the upcoming holiday, so he had that to contend with too. As we approached our anchor spot in the bay, there were lots of young people enjoying life. Boats rafted together, music, and celebration. It looked like kids home from college, and on break from high school, just having so much fun. There is a sandbar in the bay that you can wade on and they were having a blast. Loved seeing it, and made us miss our own kiddos. We did FINALLY get to go swimming! We jumped into our suits, grabbed fins, snorkels and masks, and enjoyed time in the beautiful water after a long day on it.
Another splendid day in paradise ending with amazing artistry.
November 27th was a play day. We deployed the dinghy and explored the “neighborhoods” around the anchorage. Lots of canals with gorgeous homes and boats. Saw manatee and lots of very large lizards. Neil got more used to the dinghy, and got it up “on plane” for some fun, exciting riding around the bay. Too soon, we were reloading the dinghy, had lunch, and raised anchor for a short cruise to get more experience navigating narrow, busy channels. We anchored on the other side of the Miami channel, by Star Island.
November 28th – THANKSGIVING DAY! We were up early for a long day of cruising – 75 nm to Palm Beach Gardens. Our plan had been to ride the Gulf Stream and take advantage of the current pushing us north. The winds were predicted to be from the north, so would be against us, but were not supposed to be very strong. After raising anchor, Kathleen piloted out of the anchorage, through the channel and into the inlet. The water was “a confused sea”, which is a gentle way of saying crazy-ass sea like a washing machine. Fun times. And lucky Kathleen got her aerobic exercise in early! Once out of the inlet and on the open water, it was a beautiful cruise with light winds. Unfortunately, as the day progressed, so did the winds, running over the current. Even though our wind speed gauge was still not working, it was not hard to determine the winds – constant white caps, 2-3 foot swells with very short periods (intervals between crests). This quickly developed into a rowdy ride, with bow splash becoming constant spray, and the boat riding like a bucking bronco.
We continued this way until one of the ceiling panels fell off – then we all determined that maybe slowing down and moving closer to shore was a better idea, even if we added time to our travels. (Also, Kathleen’s stomach was letting her know that continuing on the path they were on would have consequences…).
The morning started fine…
But as the flag ouside Mar Al Lago shows, the winds were against us and the seas were not being nice… So we finally achored at Palm Beach Gardens, a little later than anticipated, but safely. Kathleen made a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, gravy, sweet potato casserole, veggies, and of course, Key Lime pie!
Our first Thanksgiving in our new home – and the sunset behind us is real! We had originally planned to make a long run from Palm Beach Gardens up to Cape Canaveral to get some experience boating at night. However, our long streak of favorable weather came to an end, with winds forecasted to increase in strength and velocity over the next day. So we made plans instead to have an easy day the next day and practice abbreviated night passage… On the 29th, we had a leisurely morning, then weighed anchor and cruised up to the Old Port Cove harbor. We anchored, had lunch and relaxed, with the plan to begin cruising as the sun was setting, go out the inlet and come back after sunset to practice using lighted beacons – what could possibly go wrong?
We weighed anchor about an hour before sunset. Palm Beach is a busy port, with boats of all sizes from dinghies and skiff to cruise ships and freighters. As we were motoring out to the channel, we saw a cruise ship with the smoke stacks lit. We all idly wondered, “Huh, I wonder when it’s leaving?” As we were crossing in front of it, the horn let out one long sound – signaling that it was getting ready to leave. We accelerated just a tad to be sure we got out of its way… Neil steered us out of the very busy channel through a rough and busy inlet, and out into the open water, were we waited, and watched, well clear of the cruise ship as she made her way to her next port. As the sun set, we made our way back towards the inlet, using the lit green and red beacons as our guide. As we got into the channel, both of us wondered why the lights in front of us seemed to go out. Bernie, who by this time was tired and surely wondering if we were ever going to understand these intricacies, pointed out, “that’s a freighter in front of you. It’s AIS (identification signal) has been on the chart plotter this whole time. I was wondering when you were going to notice it.” OK, all tempers were getting a little short. Avoided the freighter, we turned onto our fairway, which did NOT have lit beacons, only day markers. At this point we were out of natural light. We turned on our spot light (which we had practiced with the previous night). Suddenly, it looked like the spot light had gone to strobe mode (something we did not know was a thing). The strobe affect was not helpful. Kathleen finally walked outside and looked up – and discovered that it was not a strobe affect, it was the open array radar that was intermittenly reflecting the spot light. Turned off the radar, problem solved. Another several tense minutes of dodging crab pots and anchor chains, and we finally dropped anchor, secured it and turned off the boat. All nerves were fried. Once we got everything secured, we all needed some space and a shower. And maybe a beverage. The next day was our last day of our training voyage. Given the winds, we decided to take the ICW back to Grand Harbor. 60 nm later, we made it home. Neil piloted most of the trip home, and Kathleen discovered that she really has an affinity for VHF radios (big surprise there…). As we slowly cruised up our fairway to our slip, all of our neighbors were out to watch us – big sport in boating – watching people dock. Fortunately, we did a great job with no mishaps. We were home. December 1st was a busy day for Neil and Bernie, doing more maintenance (a boating past time…) and Kathleen cleaned and re-stocked the larder. The next day we took Bernie home to West Palm Beach, thanking him profusely for all he had done for us. We got to visit with Clayton and Deanna, then home for a needed quiet evening. Bernie sent our training certification letter to the insurance company, something we needed to be able to take the boat out on our own. It was quite a feeling of accomplishment when we received notification from the insurance company that the rider stating we had to have a captain with us was lifted. Granuaile was, fully and finally, ours. All we needed now was time and practice, and some of Grace O’Malley’s grit and courage to venture. The next several days was basic clerical and clean up. We did order our boat cards, which look amazing. And we decided where to go next….
Christmas decorations on the palm trees in the background looked cool – the beer was good too.
We embarked this adventure many years ago – culminating in taking ownership of a Nordhavn 50 trawler on November 6, 2019. Being landlubbers with very little experience, we hired a training captain to teach us the ways of our new home and begin an entirely new life. All journeys start with the first step. And so we stepped off the dock…